Features 2 Apr 2013

Industry Insight: IEG's Yarrive Konsky part one

Yarrive Konsky says the industry must focus on achieving common goals in order to move forward.

2013 marks International Entertainment Group’s (IEG) fifth year as the promoter of the Australian Superbike Championship with managing director Yarrive Konsky at the helm.

IEG has successfully implemented a number of new measures and initiatives to assist in the sport’s growth, but Konsky says the industry must rally together to ensure a prosperous future and the proper playing field for Australia’s world-class riders to do battle.

In this first part of our pre-2013 season Industry Insight, Konsky is frank and unreserved in his assessment of the sport at its current point. Stay tuned for part two on Thursday, 4 April.


Konsky says it is up to all parties involved in the sport to stand together.

2013 is IEG’s fifth year as promoter of the Australian Superbike Championship. Looking back to 2009 when you first took on the ASBK, has the series met expectations so far?

Not at all! However, this isn’t from a lack of hard work or trying different things. There is divide, confusion and too many people with vested interests. The sport should be the primary focus and right now there are too many people challenging the realisation that we need change during changing times.

I am not a yes man, I will put my balls on the line and risk everything I have to ensure we are moving forward, however there is too much revolt.

Although it hasn’t reached my expectations we have achieved a great deal. I set my expectations high – higher than any promoter. I don’t have any dependants and although I hope that changes soon, right now I can selfishly focus my entire being and business on the growth and direction of the sport.

What would you say the strong points of the series? Specifically, what’s improved during the past four seasons?

One thing that needs to be highlighted is live television. We have increased the number of eyes on our sport domestically by hundreds of thousands. We reintroduced prize money, decreased entry fees and ensured there is more interest in domestic racing. We have aligned the sport with the biggest form of motorsport in this country – V8 Supercars. And we have provided a platform for professional teams to execute and leverage their businesses from.

And the weak points?

The calendar, which we aren’t one hundred percent accountable for, the rules and regulations and the consistency, or lack thereof. We also need to work on providing the team a platform to sell forward their amazing teams. V8 Supercars, the V8 Utes – these are are all commercial entities in their own right, however they have professional people running their teams with commercial managers and media and marketing managers.  Most of our teams are made up of mums and dads. The fact is we have a great product and great athletes, we just need to ensure that they are being commercially represented properly.

It’s very difficult to measure ‘success’ when it comes to racing on a domestic level for a promoter. But in saying that, IEG last year took charge of Australian Supercross, so you in fact have a pretty direct measuring stick. How do the Superbikes compare to Supercross?

They are very different. The fact is we have no real competitors with Supercross. With the Superbikes we are competing with World Superbikes and MotoGP. It’s hard to build a profile when we are competing with those two international events. Our Superbike riders are creditable riders capable of running top five to ten in the world, but it costs a lot of money to consistently tell Australia that, especially when the industry, teams and governing body aren’t consistent. It is very difficult to forward plan. One consistent is the racing. I am not for one minute telling any fan, sponsor or racer that Superbikes are too hard to build, I am just pointing out the realities.

To me, as somebody who also actively works in both disciplines, it seems the base is there for the dirt bike industry on a national level and there are a lot of legit fans already closely following the sport, its stars and the teams. In Superbikes, we’re all seemingly trying to build it up from scratch, which is a long process. Do you agree?

Very much so. No one for nearly a decade before me worked on profiling the athletes and the teams in the domestic championship. Did you know lawn bowls are on TV? So is netball and table tennis! That means nothing if people aren’t watching it. We can place motorsport on TV, but that’s far from enough. Also Chad Reed, Michael Byrne, [Brett] Metcalfe have all returned to support domestic racing. If [Casey] Stoner, [Chris] Vermeulen, [Troy] Corser or [Troy] Bayliss returned to domestic racing before they retired it would have done amazing things for the sport.

Even if we could get them involved it would make a difference. Bayliss approached us and its easy to understand why he is the people’s choice. We will hopefully have him involved with some of the rounds. Straight up the product is great, the riders are first class, but marketing and media costs money.

Maxwell heads the Superbike field at Phillip Island

Maxwell heads the Superbike field at Phillip Island. Image: Andrew Gosling/TBG Sport

So in a roundabout way, would you say that not having Casey Stoner winning MotoGP races (for example) and not actually having any Aussies in WSBK, could be a benefit to our local race scene? With all due respect to Bryan Staring and the rest of our Aussies on the world stage, of course, the most accessible way to witness top Australian riders for local motorcycle enthusiasts may now be right here in the ASBK.

It does hurt the sport in some ways. We are a country with a small population and we are competing with many weekend activities. Add to this the success of our riders on the world scene and spectators becoming increasingly aware of Aussies abroad, not Aussies here in their backyards. We also can’t compete with international marketing budgets, the corporate hospitality suites you have at WSBK and MotoGP and the industries’ activation and interaction at the two events.

It would be beneficial to see each manufacturer running similar corporate suites at ASBK and incorporating activation programs and champions dinners. It would be great to see Honda run something at various rounds with Casey, [Mick] Doohan and [Wayne] Gardner, Suzuki with Vermeulen, Corser with BMW, and Bayliss with Ducati. Even Staring, and [Broc] Parkes and [Josh] Waters now with Yamaha.

Sports are built on brand names. People watch their beloved footy teams, they know the players inside out, people watch movies to follow the actors they are attracted to. We need fanatical fans. This is why [Valentino] Rossi, Stoner, Reed, [Stefan] Everts, Doohan and the like are huge. To build profiles takes money and this is where we need to be creative.

Let’s speak about the profile of the sport. Select riders and some teams from what I understand have been critical of IEG’s promotion of them – some very vocally on social networking. What are your thoughts on that?

It’s okay, it’s hard for them – I am not critical of them. It’s difficult because people have limited time and they all want things done differently based on their opinions. I will try and explain it as easy as I can – if you create a product, you need to achieve many things before it becomes a success. You need the right people to make it, the right people to invent it, the right people to like it and the right mediums to ensure people use it.

The product I inherited I didn’t create and the people before me ran it the way they choose to without any guidelines, rules, restrictions, targets and or governed expectations. Right now I have a race event that I operate and manage. I am reliant on Motorcycling Australia to create growth initiatives and to implement common national marketing strategies. I am reliant on the teams and their respective sponsors to market their riders and their respective domestic championship. I am reliant of the states to run consistent rules, regulations and grading.

There will always be critics – that’s life. I don’t have the broadest shoulders but I have learnt I can’t unfortunately be everything to everyone. We are forging ahead and making progress, although minimal, it’s good. Consider a lot of sports have gone backwards during this tough economic climate.

What we see in a lot of sports, is that the organisers can only do so much and it’s up to the media to further increase the headlines, rivalries, outline the specialty of equipment, etc. In addition, riders and teams need to let their guard down a bit and tell it how it is. Agreed?

For sure. You don’t see people lining up to watch people knit. People aren’t interested in watching robots. When Rossi and Stoner went at one another, the sport’s popularity improved. Rossi is on Yamaha for many reasons, one of them is Dorna needs him to be competitive. People shouldn’t like war, but they are intrigued by it. People love boxing. People love reality shows. They are attracted to anything true. We can’t ask our riders to be fake.

How much does social networking assist in the series? The ASBK is approaching 7000 Likes on Facebook and over 1000 on Twitter. That’s a pretty nice base of ‘free’ advertising in itself. A great way to leverage sponsorships, at the very least.

We haven’t attacked social media as hard as we should have. We have changed the dynamic of our business this year and employed another person to focus on continuous and relevant communication. She just finished a course on social media and hopefully we will see an improvement. We also have a new site being launched [this] week.

Konsky is the owner of the powerhouse Carlton Dry Honda Racing motocross and supercross team. Image: Simon Makker/Makkreative.

The 2+4 rounds are back again in 2013, well at least one of them. From what I know, they are financially the worst rounds for IEG throughout the series. Tell us about the decision to be at those events and is it a long-term option for the category? Do teams need to take further advantage of the exposure gained alongside the V8s?

These rounds cost me over $100,000 each – TV, logistics, air fence staff, fixed costs, marquees considered. Between entries and garage fees we don’t even cover the costs for the marquees and the power they require to run them. That said I believe they are integral to the sport’s future position in corporate Australia. Teams do need to take advantage of them. We either need to race in four or five rounds or no rounds at all moving forward as to leverage something properly it needs to be seen, heard and activated more than once.

It’s no secret that you also run the factory Honda team in Motocross and Supercross, one of the biggest and most professional operations in the country. Does that give you a clearer vision, in a way, when working with the ASBK teams?

I am constantly being criticised for owning and operating my team. Why? Again I push it as far as I can. I am lucky in many ways with regards to not having dependants. In other ways I feel like I missing out on the most important thing – family. I yearn for kids and a steady relationship. It’s hard to have both when you are still in the building stage of your life. My team gets everything it needs, it sets the benchmark and pushes people to do more.

I have driven rider wages up, driven track presence up and aided in bringing outside people to sport. I hope that encourages people rather than hinders them. It also does enable me to have a closer relationship to riders. With Motocross and Supercross it’s easier to have open conversations with riders as they aren’t influenced by sponsors, the commission or team owners. With Superbikes there are many proactive riders, however we need more riders and teams and hopefully we can help.

Stay tuned – part two of this Industry Insight will be published on Thursday, 4 April.